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A Few Thoughts from the Prerelease

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Somewhere in the middle of my deep-seated hatred for everything lies a soft spot for small card shops. I can say with a high degree of confidence that I've spent more time in such stores than any other business. Growing up as a socially inept nerd they were always my best bet for meeting new people that wanted to talk about the things that I was interested in talking about.

That soft spot has endured with me to this day, but my visits to such shops have become less and less frequent as time has passed and I have become more firm in my opinions. When I was 15 I was very excited to hear what everybody had to say about the new set and to compare what sweet-action rares everybody had opened. Now I'm most interested in what manner of deck my commons can support and less-inclined to say anything to the guy asserting his belief that Zhur-Taa Druid will be a five-dollar common. Even still, I found myself giving up one of the first days of actually tolerable Minnesota weather to sling spells with a bunch of strangers.

I chose Azorius because I am the most boring and got paired with Boros, which was kind of a whammy in terms of my sealed-deck philosophy. You know, take the draw every time. Luckily for me I didn't open a ton of red cards in my pool. Less luckily, this was because the majority of my Dragon's Maze cards were black and green. Awkward.

I did open an Aurelia and a Ral Zarek, so I figured that I'd be able to pull something off, but my most exciting commons were three copies of Opal Lake Gatekeepers. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of cantrips, but my pool was pretty far from ideal. This is the deck I ended up playing:

[deck title="Dragon's Mazed Sealed Act I"]
[spells]
Ral Zarek
Aurelia, the Warleader
Vassal Soul
Nav Squad Commandos
Fencing Ace
Boros Mastiff
Court Street Denizen
Inaction Injunction
3 Opal Lake Gatekeepers
Paralyzing Grasp
Steeple Rock
Armory Guard
2 Haazda Snare Squad
Far/Away
Avenging Arrow
Skymark Roc
Prophetic Prism
Assault Griffin
Voidwielder
[/spells]
[lands]
Azorius Guildgate
Izzet Guildgate
Dimir Guildgate
Boros Guildgate
Orzhov Guildgate
Azorius Guildgate
3 Mountain
4 Island
4 Plains
[/lands]
[/deck]

So yeah, basically my deck was bad creatures, bad spells, two mythics and a Skymark Roc. My sideboard consisted of other four+ costing creatures and three copies of Levy Decree. I made the mistake of boarding the Levy Decrees in against a very aggressive deck that I was sure I was very unfavored against anyway and saw what I had suspected very clearly- they're only going to be good in a deck that's good at attacking.

I ended up going 3-2 and my matches weren't particularly interesting. My round five opponent seemed to think that our match was close for some reason as he bemoaned his draws as he rolled me, but I'm not convinced that he was all there. My pool's general lack of 2-3 drop creatures made me quite cold to good aggressive decks and Opal Lake Gatekeepers was actually an insane breaker against other slow decks. Relevant bodies that generate card advantage, to the surprise of no one, are good.

So What Did We Learn

Well, I confirmed that for the most part the format is going to be slow and that jamming a bunch of gates really isn't going to be too detrimental. Further, the upside on "kicked" gatekeepers is going to be a lot better than the average common in this format. When the stars line up the aggressive decks are potent, but I'd rather have a deck with strong removal ala Street Spasm and One-Thousand Lashes than one full of Rakdos Cacklers.

Cluestones Suck

When I first saw the Cluestones spoiled I thought it was neat that we were going to have more manafixing but them costing three is just not going to cut it, even with the format being as slow as it is. Jumping from three to five just isn't a thing. The four drops are very comparable to the fives and you don't want to have a huge quantity of either. Alternatively, the B-plan of six mana draw a card is just plain bad. I pumped my fist every time somebody played one of these against me and I never noticed them making a positive difference. It is far more relevant to build one's deck in a way that emphasizes one color over the others for consistency than to have some clunky rock to attempt to go greedier.

Split Cards are Insane

Hey look, more obvious information. If you played against Turn/Burn there is a reasonable chance that you got worked. It happens. It's Magic. Personally I learned a lot from playing with Far/Away. The card very clearly does a lot of work when "kicked" but I found myself most commonly casting it strictly as an Unsummon. This provided tempo swings that let me win from under some oppressive rares and cards like Unflinching Courage.

The ease of splashing the back end of these cards in conjunction with the relevance that many of them have as singular cards illustrates that they will be very good in my "force five color" type draft decks. I'm quite excited to sling these ones.

Our Work is Only Just Beginning

Basically all of my thought son this limited format start from the basis of "I really like being on the draw" and build from there. There is a ton more to learn and I'm pretty excited to get into DGR in a big way. Of course, we have a bit of a lull before it launches on MTGO so next week I will likely be giving updates on Pauper MUC Delver- something that I've been putting some reps in with and think that I have a very strong edge against the format with right now.

Thanks for reading.
-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

5 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts from the Prerelease

  1. I have to disagree about cluestones. I don’t think they are auto includes by any stretch, but sometimes they’ll fill the gap.

    At the event I attended, I built a Junk deck which didn’t have a dominant colour, but I did have 4 on colour gates and 3 on colour cluestones. In the end I went with 17 land and the Orzhov Cluestone. All of my opponents chose to be on the play, which let me roll out my colour intensive deck without a snag, and the cluestone definitely helped out with the mana at least once. Otherwise it helped me dig for more gas.

    1. You understand that “it worked for me” with such little context doesn’t really carry a lot of weight. Was it actually better than an 18th land or 23rd spell? Hard to say with so little information. I’m of the opinion that they ability to replace a card with literal any other card in your deck only has value when the alternative is substantial. If color-fixing is a thing, then prophetic prism seems in every way better than a cluestone and that’s not a card that a lot of decks are lining up to play.

      1. I totally agree that more information is required. But it seems like your case for cluestones being bad is based largely off your own experience at the prerelease and a few off the cuff observations. Much like your article, my comment was merely outlining my experience, which was that my deck felt like it played out well and it included a cluestone.

        Should I include my won-loss record for more context? 😉

        Another point. Based on the number of gates you played, the 3 Opal Lake Gatekeepers, and the statement that your deck was ‘cold against good aggressive decks’, I’d suggest that you might have had more success being on the play instead of ‘really liking being on the draw’. The extra card from drawing first seems a bit redundant with your Gatekeepers, and being on the play would allow you to get out in front of the aggressive decks that gave you problems.

        1. When my aggressive opponent beat me at 30 it was quite evident that being on the play was irrelevant. Here’s my thinking:

          Whenever I actually stabilize, my spells are just better, and they trade off favorably. The most important question is whether the damage taken before I have relevant blockers will make a relevant difference in the game. This can be true only in situations where I am capable of racing. Take a look at my deck, and ask yourself outside of drawing Aurelia when I would ever be capable of such a thing. And let’s be real, if they aren’t answering Aurelia play or draw doesn’t matter at all. I need to try to maximize my chances of blocking on curve, and which makes the extra card a lot more relevant than having my blocker in place before the attacker shows up.

        2. And I agree that w/l in a small tournament doesn’t count for much, but it’s the question everybody asks 😀

          I think that for cluestones to really matter the jump from 3-5 has to matter, and more often than not not playing a blocker on turn 3 seemed to matter more than that jump, which didn’t seem to matter all that much.

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